Safe Family Gatherings


By: Rifka Schonfeld, Director S.O.S (Strategies for Optimum Success)

We all know how important family and celebration are to our traditions and our sanity! With Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos behind us, we look toward Chanukah as the next item on the calendar that generally brings families together. Most years, Chanukah means an evening together, lighting candles, eating latkes and doughnuts, and exchanging thoughtful presents. With Covid still looming, family get-togethers present anxiety and fear in a way that they never did in the past. Instead of worrying about who might make an inappropriate comment, we have to worry about transmitting a possible deadly virus. Do you forego the Chanukah celebration? Or, can we find a way to celebrate in a safe and responsible manner?

Every family needs to weigh the pros and cons of celebrating together, but if you decide to celebrate together, below are some tips on how to do it in a way that is safer this year:

  • Ventilate. Homes have traditionally poor ventilation systems, sometimes intentionally in order to keep energy costs down. This means that the air sits in the room for significantly longer than commercial spaces that are intentionally ventilated. Therefore, keeping windows open and using exhaust fans (not regular fans) is a smart way to better ventilate your home. Circulating the air out of the home means that if anyone is infected, the infected air will be moved out at a faster pace than if you were not intentionally ventilating the home. Better yet, if you can have the party outside, go for it!
  • Shorten the time. The shorter the amount of time spent together, the less likely you will be of contracting the virus if others are infected. While this shortened time may put a damper on the celebration, it still allows for everyone to get together and see each other for a festive occasion.
  • Wear masks when not eating. This is a tough one, but one that can significantly increase your safety. When not enjoying the fried foods (or salads if that’s your family’s tradition!), keep your mask on. Singing and raising your voice are great ways for the virus to spread, so keeping a mask on can help reduce that risk.

You might wonder why someone in my field is writing about this topic. The truth is that we have all seen that isolation is rampant and a secondary symptom of this pandemic. Isolation causes anxiety, underperforming at school and work, and depression. Coming together as families is a cure for this isolation but brings its own costs. If we can find a way to combat that isolation while also remaining safe, we can all live healthier and more productive lives.

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